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Saturday 19 October 2019
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AG: Cage scandal shows need for non-profit law

BEHIND BARS: A woman is seen in this photo, uploaded to social media, sitting in a caged enclosure at an Arouca church which was raided by police yesterday who removed 69 people found locked in cages on the ground floor of the compound.
BEHIND BARS: A woman is seen in this photo, uploaded to social media, sitting in a caged enclosure at an Arouca church which was raided by police yesterday who removed 69 people found locked in cages on the ground floor of the compound.

ATTORNEY GENERAL Faris Al-Rawi said the scandal of 69 people locked in cages at an Arouca church showed the need for the Non Profit Organisation Actrecently passed in both Houses of Parliament.

He spoke to Newsday yesterday at the Spotlight on the Budget event at the Radisson Hotel, Port of Spain.

He said the scandal, unearthed by a police raid on Wednesday, could be dealt with by three laws.

“Firstly, abuse of persons in vulnerable positions can have consideration under the Trafficking in Persons legislation.”

Secondly, he said mental-health management in TT is regulated by law.

“You have to be a licensed institution, and there are processes when you are admitted for mental health treatment, voluntarily and involuntarily. There are certain processes, usually involving a court, and psychiatric evaluation by two doctors.”

Third is the management of non profit organisations, said Al-Rawi.

While not commenting on the Arouca case, he said the Government has been actively managing the structure of NPOs, such as by the passage of the Non Profit Organisation Act, now partially proclaimed and operational.

“It is specifically designed to treat with institutions such as this one, because you will be subject to Financial Intelligence Unit and law enforcement scrutiny, on a continuous basis. This law really allows for the aggregation of information, put into a transparent environment.

"Therefore I am particularly pleased for the birth of the non-profit-organisation law, notwithstanding the Opposition’s lack of support. It was crucial legislation and it is one which can really come to the rescue.”

He said the bill lets the State watch how its funding to such organisations is being used.

"I am very pleased the law has a chance to be current with issues such as this.

"Again, this is a matter under investigation, so I make no comment on the particular case, but I am reminding that there are three particular laws all of which have the chance of managing the circumstances which revolve around this case.”

Psychiatrists Association secretary Dr Varma Deyalsingh told Newsday he hoped the Arouca case would spark a debate on the need to rehabilitate such individuals properly.

He also said he was maintaining a call for the law to facilitate the mandatory rehabilitation of those street dwellers who pose a hazard to the safety of the general public, under proper conditions.

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